The smell of sunscreen

Coppertone blended with gravel and
sweat, French-Onion Sunchips, and
the old cracked vinyl from the church van.

That van so coated in melted gummy worms and
tears, hymns, spoken fears, and
unspoken faith in God, humanity, ourselves.

The spray foam at the car wash 
after long trips to concerts and
conventions, camps, and cookouts.

Adults yelling “Shut Up!” 
as we sing loudly off-key in the dark 
Walmart parking lot somewhere between Yreka and Spokane.

The taste of redwood dust accumulated over a
dozen summers in our stained-glass retreat, endangered only
by the demons of our awareness.

We were children convinced of our
infallibility, conditioned for guilt and shame, but
still unbound by modesty.

Our dusty skin on the banks of the
Russian River where love was simple and those
driving the church van had not yet 

weaponized our faith against us.
It’s a memory somewhere between 
Jesus Loves Me and Harlots Burn in Hell.

It’s a glow of not-quite-right nostalgia
run through filters of light to remove
shadows of self-doubt, self-loathing.

I passed out in the summer sun
sunscreen mixed with pain and blackness.
A heat-induced illness forever 

scarred my skin with a constant reminder
to cover all that is sensitive
so that nothing could hurt me again.

Beulah Vega

Beulah Vega is a writer, poet, and theatrical artist living and working in California’s Bay Area. Her poetry has been published inThe Literary Nest, Sage Cigarettes, Walled Women, and Blood & Bourbon among others. Her first book of poetryA Saga for the Unrequited,published by Fae Corp Publishing will be available on August 30, 2021. She is still amazed when people refer to her as a writer, every time.  To follow her lunacy (artistic and otherwise) find her on Facebook @BFVegaauthor and Instagram/Twitter @Byronwhoknew